Calgary-based Zephyr Sleep Technologies has developed a home-based technology that could revolutionize treatment for sleep apnea-a condition that statistics show prevents as many as one in four adults from getting a proper sleep.

Typically sleep apnea sufferers are prescribed a CPAP machine involving a pressurized mask and bedside pumping system. Now Zephyr is offering an alternative-the MATRx plus-a new Sleep Theragnostic test that enables patients to be appropriately selected and fitted with a less intrusive oral appliance.

Dr. Sabina Bruehlmann

"Oral appliance therapy is the preferred therapy for patients, and is a viable alternative in about 70 per cent of patients. But up until now there's not been an effective way to determine who those patients are," says Dr. Sabina Bruehlmann, director of technology at Zephyr, a sleep industry leader which has received important funding from Alberta Innovates (more about this later).

With the MATRx plus, instructional videos on the device guide patients through a sleep study and the home Sleep Theragnostic test (a combination of therapeutics and diagnostics). The device monitors breathing rates and adjusts a mouthpiece without disturbing the patient's sleep. Using machine learning, the data is then translated into a report that  dentists can use to custom fit an oral sleep appliance.

Interest in the product is growing rapidly, ever since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted De Novo clearance for the MATRx plus last September.  The company now hopes to sell units to 5,000 dentists in Canada and the U.S. in the next few years.

It's a busy time for the company, that was founded in 2010 and now employs over 50 people. To bring the product to the U.S. market, Zephyr is partnering with Dentsply Sirona, the world's largest manufacturer of professional dental products.

Getting to this point has involved years of research and product development. This new technology builds off of a first product, which the company has already installed in more than 250 sleep labs across the continent.

It's a journey that has also been assisted by Alberta Innovates. Six years ago, Alberta Innovates funding enabled Zephyr to strengthen in-house technology expertise. Other funding has supported marketing efforts. In April the company received a new grant, which it plans to use to enhance its product offerings.

"Alberta Innovates has been a great partner. They supported us early on, they helped us to develop our breadth of expertise and now they are there for us when our company is ready to expand."